Crystal Stone is currently pursuing an MFA at Iowa State University and will be giving a TEDx talk on poetry in April. Work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tuck Magazine, Writers Resist, Drunk Monkeys, Coldnoon, Poets Reading the News, Jet Fuel Review, Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, North Central Review, Badlands Review, Green Blotter, Southword Journal Online and Dylan Days.
We point, trying to distinguish
the shape of the stratus:
That cloud is voluptuous.
Those hairpin curls
electrify the vast. With such hips,
it dares us to want. That cloud is
a prostitute. Do you see the way
it sashays through the blue,
as if the owner? But this cloud is an
object, bottle-neck length
reaching upward—its face beyond
the frame of the sky.
This cloud is a parent. In the wind,
it breaks apart into nothing
On my drive home from the east coast,
The trees are walking towards me,
through me. In this cold, my skin is
a mandala of veins. A barbed wire
fence next to me is braided
with trash. My dad says, build
a wall, build a wall. The pavement
is black sand and the sharks washed
ashore from cold shock look up at me.
I know those eyes. They are not living
mirrors. They are not fountains flowing
and water isn’t wet when it’s ice.
The lawnmower. The mid-afternoon shade.
From my window, shine of leaves. I hear God
called Moses from the bushes. In front of my house
only stone. Moses looked away. I dare God to show
his face. I’ve looked all over: the bottom of cereal
boxes, the ice cream truck window, mother’s jewelry
box, my lover’s eyes, a tailgate under the stars.
I blew on every dandelion I found in the grass.
The seeds stuck to my hair and I only heard
my own voice. Be patient . I don’t want to be
stung by a hornet waiting. At the Episcopal church
on Sunday, most of the hair is white if there’s hair
at all. God’s people are aging. Do we get closer
to death only when we get closer to God? When people
say to take care what they really mean is go away. I can’t
touch the sidewalk without breaking a grasshopper’s back.
In the grocery store parking lot,
the sugared sky powders
the nose of the child who asks
for more than his mother has to offer.
Her tampons look like candy.
They are not pop rocks and the cotton
is dry on the tongue. The mother
does not frown. What’s one more
missing piece? Her son is a breath of fresh
menthol smoke. She doesn’t realize
the slow blackening of lungs,
how her lips and skin are greying,
or that this moment—her son’s arms
in her worn leather bag, cotton strings
hanging out the mouth with a tongue
that spits and begs for water—will happen
again. Next time, he will leave her, arms
outstretched, digging for candy,
someone else’s cotton on the tongue.
Notes on an Afternoon Train
I am stuck between a couple:
the boy closes his eyes while his
girlfriend feeds him over my head.
I can see my body better than theirs
in the dim of the station.
My face or the glass is wrinkled.
The boy’s bike next to my legs
makes it hard to reach for the pole,
hold on and read while in motion.
A coffee is spilled. The liquid
branches out like long fingers
trying to touch my bare toes.
The blue of the train is not like
sky. It is a speckle of blue jay,
but has no song, just screech.
How to Prevent Ice Crystal Formation in Your Heart
Play dead, let the water leave you.
Sun will eventually thaw your bones.
When that happens, just find water
quickly. Most of us die
when our bodies are more than half-empty
of water. Few live where they cannot
endure. Some live anyway. Look:
the wood frog does not breathe
when ice crystal puncture the tissues.
But it’s not over for them, spring comes
back. And Jesus walked on water, not ice.
Maybe he is a spider, silver-bodied,
black legs extended shore-to-shore.
Maybe he is the icicle that stabs the wood
frog’s heart. Less life, more space
for the holy? No, Antarctica is not a wasteland.
Look closer: even by freezing waters,
lice make a hat on the young seal’s head.
I pour whiskey in my lemonade
to make the lemonade taste better:
the warm-sweet sting of a day now gone.
The ocean pours sea life onto the sand.
A hermit crab hides his face in a doll
and his legs poke out the eyes. He pours
his heart into her empty mind. After
the hurricane, the clouds don’t pour,
they spit rainbows out their fuzzy tongues,
prove that devastation can be beautiful.
My thoughts are pores leaking, the skin
of the past enlarged. If the book was not
solid, words would spill on the floor
and I’d splash letters under my toes.
My lover would hold me again, remind
me he dumped the whole bottle to save
my life. I want to be trapped in a portrait
of a place where the birds can’t catcall me
from the trees. I won’t be the porcupine.
I won’t hurt anyone from my corner of the frame.
My body will be a porch and I will hold
my lover upright. I will hold the birds’
waste, the squashed bugs, the trash left behind.
I will be the wood scraped porous and
sponge together the tree, sky and stream.